The United States Women's National Team had already qualified for the 2016 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship semifinal round before Monday's Group A matchup against Puerto Rico, but that didn't stop the Americans from cruising to a 10-0 victory.
Crystal Dunn was the star of the night, leading the U.S. with a hat trick plus two, although that's nothing new for a North Carolina Tar Heel, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Hat trick! Crystal Dunn is the 7th UNC alum with a #USWNT hat trick.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 16, 2016
Others include: Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly
There were eight new faces in the starting lineup for the U.S., shown here on the team's official Twitter account:
It was the third straight match the U.S. didn't allow a goal, and Puerto Rico finished pool play without scoring one while yielding 25.
Dunn doubled her international goal total and tied a U.S. women's soccer record, per U.S. Soccer WNT:
She opened the scoring just six minutes in on a nice pass from 17-year-old Mallory Pugh, per NBC Sports Soccer:
Former women's national team star Julie Foudy congratulated the duo on the nice play:
The onslaught continued when Carli Lloyd knocked in a penalty kick off the crossbar at the 19th minute, per NBCSN:
It was Lloyd's 85th career goal, and two minutes later Dunn scored her second goal of the night on a strong left-footer to give the U.S. a 3-0 lead, per NBC Sports Soccer:
It seemed like the ball was on Puerto Rico's side of the pitch the entire night, as the U.S. took 18 shots compared to just one for Puerto Rico in the first half, per NBCSN:
NBC Sports Soccer praised Puerto Rico, which tightened up the defense midway in the second half:
Impressed by Puerto Rico. Mentally & physically exhausting for them to chase with so little of ball. If US maintain focus, goals will flow— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) February 16, 2016
The U.S. dominated so much early on it was a shock when the ball did not go in the net, per NBCSN:
If Puerto Rico wants to take a positive away from the match, it's the play of its defense late in the first half after the three early goals. Despite constant pressure from the U.S., Puerto Rico did not allow a goal for 24 minutes in the first half until Kelley O’Hara scored with a nice left touch in the 45th minute, per NBCSN:
With the U.S. resting a few starters, Puerto Rico looked like it might play better in the second half, not allowing a goal for 15 minutes. However, after scoring an own goal in the 61st minute, the wheels fell off, and Puerto Rico allowed two more goals in less than two minutes to trail 7-0.
The first after the own goal gave Dunn the hat trick at minute 61, per NBCSN:
Christen Press got into the scoring in the 63rd minute with this right-footed blast, per CONCACAF:
Puerto Rico settled down for a bit but allowed Dunn's fourth and fifth goals in the 85th and 87th minutes as well as Samantha Mewis' first career international goal in minute 90 to cap the scoring.
The victory puts the U.S. one step closer to qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The Americans will compete in Houston against a team to be determined in the semifinal round and need just one victory to secure an Olympic spot. If they win the tournament, it would be their fourth straight CONCACAF Olympics qualifying championship and sixth straight appearance in the Olympics, per U.S. Soccer's official website.
Although the U.S. was pushed by Mexico in pool play and came out with just a 1-0 victory, there is no reason to doubt this team will win its next two games and head into the Olympics with plenty of momentum.
Although competition was high on the field, the game of soccer carries pride and respect, and the teams posed for a group shot after the first meeting between the two countries, per U.S. Soccer WNT:
Dunn was proud of her moment but knows the team has more goals to accomplish, per the Associated Press (via Yahoo Sports): ''I'd like to think this is a special moment,'' Dunn said, ''but I'd love to think there's more to come.''
Head coach Jill Ellis praised Dunn's effort, per the AP.
''Crystal worked real hard tonight,'' Ellis said. ''She was in a good position in central; I think that's probably her most comfortable position. Obviously, got a lot of service from her teammates. It's tremendous for her and for her confidence.''
As the Americans move on to semifinal play, they will look to build off the momentum of out-shooting Puerto Rico 32-1 and improving to 16-0-1 in CONCACAF qualifying play, per the AP.